The majority of British workers (52%) feel safer at work than they did a year ago, but many still fear that older workers being driven out could cause a “safety brain drain”, according to research into the state of safety in UK workplaces.
Findings by protection equipment firm Draeger Safety UK state that despite Covid-19 serving as a catalyst for health and safety improvements, offering an “unprecedented” opportunity for companies to create a lasting health and safety legacy, UK businesses expressed concerns about a major industrial disaster amid a safety “brain drain” as older, more experienced workers exit the workplace.
The study found that most workers felt safe because 67% reported that their business was “taking safety more seriously” and 54% said there was safety training at their workplace following the pandemic and 33% said that firms were “spending more money on workplace safety than before”.
Despite some positive observations, there were also concerns that significant threats to safety exist. The survey reveals that the leading reason for people feeling less safe at work was the loss of senior skilled workers from the workforce (32%).
Others (37%) stated that more effort should be made to ensure that experience is handed down to the next generation of workers.
Industrial disaster fears
Younger people (those aged between 25 and 34) feel the least safe of any age group, with almost one in five (18%) saying they feel increasingly less safe at work.
There were also concerns of “a major industrial disaster on the scale of Buncefield or Piper Alpha” for more than half (55%) of managers polled, who have concerns about such an incident happening within the next five years.
Four in 10 (40%) managers stated that the current supply chain problems pose the most significant threat to workplace safety, owing to the lack of availability of parts such as sensors and semiconductors.
Matthew Bedford, managing director at Draeger Safety UK, said: “Our 2022 research shows that 77% of British workers feel that workplace safety is more important as a business priority than it was a year ago.
“It is clear that Covid has created an unprecedented opportunity to initiate a positive and long-term legacy when it comes to workplace safety. Not only are most employees now familiar with who their business’s health and safety lead is, but health and safety professionals have had board recognition like never before.
“Now that the impact of Covid in the workplace is reduced, there is a significant opportunity for health and safety to retain the more prominent, often board-level, position that we saw during Covid, with the potential to have a lasting positive legacy on health and safety in businesses in years to come.”